Saturday, March 9, 2013

Conclave, Vatican Treasures, Sistine Chapel

This week marks another milestone in the Catholic Church.  We are electing a new Pope! 

All eyes are turned again to the Vatican City, as the cardinals, all 177 of them, gathers into a conclave.  Conclave is the private meeting when Cardinals elect a new pope.  I think it is very exciting. If you’re a fan of Dan Brown, whose specialty is  conspiracy theories in the Catholic Church; then you must be glued to the news now.  These news reports also  make me reminiscence of my visit to the Vatican, especially to the famed Sistene Chapel, where this mysterious conclave happens.

On one hand, I’m sure you’ve heard of  the Vatican Treasures.  When I was young, I used to conjure glittering jewels, crowns, golden goblets, crucifixes accumulated by the church from crusades, and offerings from kings.

But when I visited the Vatican Museum, where these “Vatican Treasures” are housed… Hmm… I totally  got a change of perspective.

Entry to the Musee Vaticani

Vatican Museum, is a must-visit in the Vatican City.  It’s just behind St. Peter’s Basilica.   It is one of the greatest museums in the world.   Four Million people visit it annually.  Last year August 2012, we were one of those statistics.

One of the most arresting exercise to this visit, going up the magnificent spiral ramp, a double helix designed by Guisseppe Momo in 1932.  This is a recent addition. The Vatican museum traces it’s history for more than 500 years!

So, what and where exactly are the treasures of the Vatican?
They are not gleaming jewels, crowns and goblets.  

Vatican Treasures refers to the Finest and Masterpieces of paintings, sculptures,  maps, tapestries and archeological objects collected by the Popes throughout the centuries.

It took them centuries to accumulate, so there’s no way, we can appreciate them half-day!

Gorgeous ceilings.... so many of these!

As usual,  we just breeze through some but gawked at those most familiar ones

Hmm.. haven’t I seen before, in Catholic Digest?  Picture!

Sarcophagus of St. Helens

Add caption
Like The Louvre in Paris, I've never been into a place that contains so much antiquity and history.  It's literally overwhelming.  Let me just share to you, the most familiar ones ....

The Bust Room (literally, thousands of busts) :)

I wouldn't mind having this in my prayer room

 Entombment by Caravaggio

Adam and Eve in Earthy Paradise by Peter Wenzel

I forgot the name .. but this is humongous!!

There's just so many,  I got tired which ones to take photos or just remember from memory.

Finally, we reached the piece the resistance --   the Sistine Chapel by Michaelangelo.
Unfortunately, they don't allow photos inside. :(  But of course, Pinoys are always so enterprising that we managed a few, with the strict guards constantly making Shhhhh... shhh!!
It is after, a Holy ground!

on the way to Sistine Chapel

The Conclave, or choosing of the new pope is held on this hallowed 1,100 square meters room.   It will be closed to the public and the 177 cardinals will be secured and totally isolated from the outside world. 

This has been happening for more than 500 years on this chapel and I believe there can be better place on earth to do that than here.    It's a beautiful, serene and the images certainly invokes one's belief of a being Higher than us.

The side panels are actually done by 3 artists, Petro Perugino, Sandro Boticelli, Domenico Ghirladiao but the ceilings are done by the great Michaelangelo.  There are sooooooooo many images, I don't know where to feast my eyes on.

Of course, we tried to find the images that are most familiar to us.  It's touching to see them in real authentic beauty!! 

Gosh, all these Holiness is making me feel I have a halo on my head !! :))  

I don't think we were able to see everything! Such a huge collection! We are rushing to get to St.  Peter's Basilica.

My last agenda was to buy rosaries.  The Holy Rosary from the Vatican is made from real rose petals and smells so sweet.  (NOTE:  Do not buy them outside from the sidewalk vendors.  Most of the times, those are cheaper, but not made from real roses but just scented!) Ted bought home some Holy Water in lovely glass bottles.  Probably to sprinkle on me, when I get bitchy.  :P

'till next adventure!



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Viva Venezia!

Venice is such a fascinating city.  I've read about it in books, travel shows and magazines, but there's nothing like experiencing the real thing.  The moment I stepped out of the train, and saw the streets... all in water..water..water!  I said to myself, "My God.. this is it!  I'm in Venice!"  It feels like stepping into the  pages of Conde Nast.  Exotic Places that you want to see, but you can only read  ... until now. 

Venice is old world glamour and class.  It was once called The Most Serene Republic of Venice, dating back to 827, the Byzantine period, when it was still fashionable for men to wear white leggings. 

If you are prone to sea sickness, it might be difficult for you to get around this charming city.   It's literally  a floating city.  You hop-on, hop-off  water buses, water taxis and cross delicate bridges to get from one destination to another.

The waterways or canals, as they call the streets in Venice,  are clean and none of those sea, salty, sticky feel.  I haven't seen a speck of garbage or trash thrown about in the water.    

Water Taxis.  I feel like a Bond Girl, riding in one. 

A little history here, for old buffs like me.  Venice is a sinking city because it was established on a lagoon on the edge of the Adrian Sea.  It is the old version of  re-claimation, I guess.  

Unlike Singaporeans who perfected the science of expanding their island territory by reclaiming the sea-  the Venetians used quite a more backward approach.  They drove poles of alder trees into the mud, sand and clay; and marble, which is actually permeable (water eventually seeps through) was used as foundations.  Over the centuries, the weight of the buildings drove the soft foundation into the sea bed... and the rest is..... well, a future Atlantis.

Can i give you a ride?

While motorized boats now ply the canals; the traditional Gondolas still rule the charming parts of the waterways.  It's romanticism, at it's most charming and most Euro-expensive!  A 40-minute ride costs 80 Euros.


Gondola ride or Gondola charm from Tiffany's ? I don't need to spell-out my choice.
Must-not-be-missed destination in Venice,  the islands of Murano.  It's world-famous for its glass making industry which dates back 700 years!  Have you encountered some fabulous glass artworks or decors in big-name hotels, including elaborate chandeliers? Chances are, if you look underneath, they're stamped with Made in Murano, Italy.   

The roads are rough, but good thing, there's no traffic :)
catching our breath after a 20min water ride

The moment we stepped-out of the water taxi, well-meaning staff of glass factories invited us to see their foundries.    We gamely went to one, and chance upon a glass maker, heating up some gum paste in a furnace (1000 degrees celsius) , and manually blowing into it, to make a simple glass vase.

There's a lot of back breaking work involved.  It's really a skilled and artistic craft.   No wonder glass makers long ago, were treated like professionals or artisans.  We went to the showroom to see the ready-made pieces.

I have no need for such elaborate vases and lamps. It will be a nightmare to hand-carry it all the way to Singapore.  Besides, I cannot afford them!  So, I settled on little trinkets as souvenirs.

Murano is such a lovely little town.  Everywhere you look, there's a quaint glass shop with delicate and colorful displays.   You can sit down in a foot bridge or in a cafe, and observe all the nicely-dressed tourists and buyers from abroad, doing their shopping.

I wish I could have stayed there for days ... But he had to move-on to see and experience more of Venice!

Our next stop was The Piazza de San Marco or St. Mark's Square.  It's the principal square of Venice, much like Trafalgar Square is London's or  Place de la Concorde is Paris'.  It's one of Europe's most beautiful squares and Napoleon Bonaparte calls it as the "Drawing Room of Europe."

Flanking this gorgeous square is the breath-taking Church of St Mark's.

It's hard to describe how beautiful the lay-out is, and how magnificent the old structures are, but let's allow the pictures to paint what my limited vocabulary can't.

It was really surreal being there amidst all those beautiful architecture.  I like to imagine how it was long ago.  The sheer vibrance of culture, arts and beauty.  The old world are more prolific than we are today!   Now, we just bank on the past and re-create, re-hash them ...

Like what they do yearly...... in their world-famous annual Carnival. The Venetian Carnivale re-lives what life is like 300 years ago, the glamor of royalty, the music, dance and the freedom.  The Carnival happens weeks before the Lenten Season. The Venetian Carnival something that makes me dream of coming back here!  But for now.... I can only bring home these venetian masks as souvenirs. 

Venice is surreal.  It's really a must-see place in Europe.  I'm happy that it hasn't sunk yet in my lifetime :))  

Before I close this entry,  indulge me as I post some more photos to jog my memory in the years to come and  remember this beautiful and enchanting city ....


Our deepest thanks to this mother and daughter team, Kristina and Zendra, who gamely showed us their beautiful Italy, from Milan, Rome, Venice and Florence. Tireless. In-defatigable!  Much love!!

and finally..... Last one for the Road ??  :)

'til next adventure!